The mixed response to Margaret Thatcher’s death is to be expected. For those of us who saw our home towns and cities decimated by the mantra of ‘free markets’ and ‘privatization’ good and public sector bad, the reality of her ideological stance is personal. However, even if you were not members of those communities who saw lives, and futures, destroyed by ‘that’ woman, we are all still living with the consequences of an approach that is no longer fit for purpose.
We must not under estimate the power of this ideology. In effect the same ideology that under pinned Thatcher has provided successive governments’ with a blueprint of how society should be structured. Ideology determines what, and whom, counts in a society, differentiating between the deserving and underserving, along with structuring the role the state, free markets, families and individuals should play in meeting need in society. This drives government policy and tells society who will receive what, its cost, who will pay for it and how it will be provided. A particularly disturbing aspect of the current crisis is the displacement of responsibility for ‘austerity’ onto seemingly everyone, except those who caused it; an under regulated financial sector, because this would contradict the efficacy of a neo-liberal approach.
However, the exercise of Thatcherite ideology is not just about political power and the domination and oppression of those most marginalized in society. It also requires the consent and compliance of wider society to operate without challenge. For real change to occur society needs to withdraw its consent and compliance if we want to see a shift away from the current approach which appears to underpin all the political parties ideas for our future.
We need to be able to imagine a world not driven by neo-liberalism, free markets and the profit motive. Arguably our biggest problem is the lack of vision our politicians seem to have. Regardless of political persuasion nobody seems able to conceive of an approach not centred on neo-liberalism and a free market. How about basing our futures on compassion as a foundation for action and a belief in one another instead of stigmatising those who require support?
Rejecting such ideology at the ballot box will do more long term good than gesturing for a few minutes at her funeral.